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  • Bikila vs Gebrselassie

    Who's the greatest African distance runner of all-time? With apologies to Keino, Aouita, El Guerrouj, etc. I believe this answer comes down to Abebe Bikila and Haile Gebrselassie. What do you think?

  • #2
    Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

    Any debate about the best African distance runner of all time would have to carefully consider Henry Rono and Mirutus Yifter as strong contenders in addition the the gentlemen you have mentioned.

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    • #3
      Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

      to a great extent you are comparing an apple with an orange as Bikela was I believe exclusively a marathoner, whereas Geb is a 5 & 10 guy with a dabble in the marathon.

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      • #4
        Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

        Aouita has to be considered in this. He has a gold in the 5k - and a bronze in the 800! No runner, from anywhere, has had his range, and all before the days when EPO took hold in running.

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        • #5
          Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

          The IOC banned EPO way back in 1990, indicating that the use/abuse well established at that point. The public only learns about "new" drugs until years after they've been popular with the athletes.

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          • #6
            Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

            Here's how I see the debate about "greatest African runner":

            Are any considered the greatest competitor in their event(s)? If so, which has the strongest case?

            Gebreselassie may be the greatest 5k/10k man of all time, but Emil Zatopek and Paavo Nurmi have claims just as strong if not stronger. Yifter's accomplishments don't quite trump any of the three named above. Aouita may very well be the greatest 5k man of all time, but as a 1500 guy he wasn't even the best of his era. Kiptanui may be the greatest steepler of all time, but it's not a slam-dunk. Keino was a great 1500 runner and real good as a bunch of other things, but can't really be considered the greatest in any of them. Rono was tremendously dominant for a short period. Like Keino, both Rono and Aouita showed tremendous range, but so did Nurmi.

            While Abebe Bikila only competed in the marathon, I see no one whose accomplishments as a marathoner are comparable. He won 11 of the 13 marathons he started (with one defeat and one DNF). He won two Olympic marathons, both with world-record times. No one else combines consistency, big wins, and WRs like Bikila. I'd say he's the greatest African runner ever, and only Morceli give him a push.

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            • #7
              Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

              You make a compelling case, I believe I'd have to concur.

              Rono may lay claim to greatest period of distance runnering with his numerous WR's in multiple distances over a few week period in 1977 or 78 (I believe) but his entire career doesn't match up with several of the others.

              But it may be too early to truely judge Gebrselassie for this analysis. Would a WR and/or Olympic Gold at the Marathon for Gebrselassie change the answer?

              But Bikila's marathoning career truely stands alone as you point out.

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              • #8
                Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

                How much will the length of Geb's WR's affect his career ranking? If his wr's are still standing in 5, 10, 15 years...will he be ranked even higher?

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                • #9
                  Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

                  On my personal scale of things I "discount" all marathoning before the '70s (or even '80s) (see, us old farts don't always think the ancient days were the best!).

                  Why? Simply because marathons were very obscure bits of competition, contested more by people who were a little strange (and I say that in all kindness) rather than by the incredible athletic specimins we see today. There was just little or no incentive to be a marathoner, so those who excelled didn't really represent the pinnacle of distance talent as they do today.

                  Bikila was incredible in his day, but his feats pale with those of Geb.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

                    'those who excelled didn't really represent the pinnacle of distance talent as they do today.'
                    Not sure I totally agree with that comment. Barry Magee of NZ who finished 3rd behind Bikila in Rome
                    came close to breaking the 5000 WR the following year and also was highly ranked at 10k also. Maybe Bikila (and Magee) were ahead of their time in choosing the marathon while being world class runners overall.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

                      And as Pre could have attested to, Shorter was very difficult to handle at 5k and 10k while being a Marathoner. Shorter was consitantly a top 10 world ranked 10k runner from 1970 to 1974.

                      Looking at the 60's and early 70's there seems to be a decent amount of overlap at 10k and the Marathon on the World Rankings list, at least as much or even more than today. Wolde, Adcocks, Shorter, etc.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

                        >On my personal scale of things I "discount" all
                        >marathoning before the '70s (or even '80s) (see,
                        >us old farts don't always think the ancient days
                        >were the best!).

                        Why? Simply because marathons
                        >were very obscure bits of competition, contested
                        >more by people who were a little strange (and I
                        >say that in all kindness) rather than by the
                        >incredible athletic specimins we see today.

                        So athletes such as Zatopek and Mimoun don't count? Granted, they ran them infrequently, but they were definitely "incredible athletic specimens". Even Johnny Kelley was the fastest high school miler in the nation as a senior, and he didn't have a chance against guys like Peters or Karvonen. And if you say that Bikila was not an incredible athletic specimen . . .

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

                          "Why? Simply because marathons were very obscure bits of competition, contested more by people who were a little strange (and I say that in all kindness) rather than by the incredible athletic specimins we see today. There was just little or no incentive to be a marathoner, so those who excelled didn't really represent the pinnacle of distance talent as they do today."

                          I beg to differ: See the attached partial list of the top quality 10-k and 5-K guys who were also top marathons in the 50's, 60's and early 70's: Marathoner listed followed by 10k & 5K World Rankings and yrs.

                          Frank Shorter
                          10-K Rankings: 70-2, 72-5, 74-5, 75-2
                          5-K Rankings: 75-10

                          Ron Hill
                          10-K Ranking: 69-6, 68-9, 64-8, 63-2

                          Abebe Bikila
                          10-K Raning: 62-9

                          M. Wolde
                          10-K Ranking: 68-3, 64-4, 62-7

                          Basil Heatley
                          10-K Ranking: 63-4, 61-4

                          Barry Magee
                          10-K Ranking: 61-1
                          5-K Ranking: 61-2

                          Emil Zatopek
                          10-K Ranking: 55-4, 48 thru 54 #1
                          5-K Ranking: 54-3, 52&53-1, 51-2, 47 thru 50 #1

                          "those who excelled didn't really represent the pinnacle of distance talent as they do today".

                          ???

                          In fact just like today, back in the 60's you were likely to run up against (1 or 2) accomplished 10k or even 5k guy in most major marathons.

                          Only 2 of the 2002 top 10 marathoners had ever been ranked at the 10k.

                          In 2001 only 1 of the top 10 ranked marathons had ever been ranked at the 10-K.

                          Doesn't look like much has changed in the past 50 years. In marathons you mainly run up against marathon specialists with an occasional guy with impressive 10k/5k credentials.

                          Interesting note through: Looking back in time, Zatopek may be the most impressive distance runner ever (anywhere), at least to this point. 7 #1 rankings in the 10k, 5 #1's in the 5k and 1 #1 in the marathon, plus that incredibale three Olympic Gold performance in 1952 (5k, 10k and Marathon).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

                            >The IOC banned EPO way back in 1990, indicating
                            >that the use/abuse well established at that
                            >point. The public only learns about "new" drugs
                            >until years after they've been popular with the
                            >athletes.

                            The IOC banned it because of the problems in cycling. It was in use in track by 87 because the parties that had been leading the way in EPO use in cycling fled the sport under the heat of an investigation and clean up by cycling's governing body. One of the guys who bailed from cycling was Dr. Gabrielle Rosa, who began to work with Kenyans, and their numbers in terms of world class runners exploded within months of Dr. Rosa's work with them. Drug use in E. Africa. By some, no doubt about it. Think Chepchumba, and the stories runners on the circuit tell about the IAAF looking the other way, and letting some guilty Africans go because they are "so poor" and supporting "so many" in their "extended families".

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Bikila vs Gebrselassie

                              <The IOC banned it
                              >because of the problems in cycling. It was in
                              >use in track by 87 because the parties that had
                              >been leading the way in EPO use in cycling fled
                              >the sport under the heat of an investigation and
                              >clean up by cycling's governing body. One of the
                              >guys who bailed from cycling was Dr. Gabrielle
                              >Rosa, who began to work with Kenyans, and their
                              >numbers in terms of world class runners exploded
                              >within months of Dr. Rosa's work with them. Drug
                              >use in E. Africa. By some, no doubt about it.
                              >Think Chepchumba, and the stories runners on the
                              >circuit tell about the IAAF looking the other
                              >way, and letting some guilty Africans go because
                              >they are "so poor" and supporting "so many"
                              >in their "extended families". >>

                              Allow me to sneak in a response before the moderators yank this incredibly full of malicious gossip post.

                              Please cite a meaningful source for any of your "facts" that isn't some anonymous poster has spewed on one of the boards that tolerates that kind of crap. Even better, please have one of your mythical "runners on the circuit" allow you to quote him.

                              Comment

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